Women are taking centre stage in the construction industry this week, so we caught up with three employees from Finning UK & Ireland to find out about their experiences of working in the industry and what the company is doing to attract and retain more women.
Rachel See sits on the Finning UK & Ireland executive board and is responsible for driving the digitalisation of the company’s after sales offering and marketing. Marsha Myles is learning and organisational development manager, as well as being a key advocate and member of the company’s inclusion & diversity council which leads the company’s drive for increased inclusion and diversity. While Hayleigh Plumbe swapped the salon for the sales floor when she joined Finning as an internal sales rep five years ago.
Had you always wanted to work in the construction sector?
Rachel: In all honesty, no. I did a degree in English and imagined becoming a teacher. When I finished university, I worked for a marketing agency and after a couple of years became Sales and Marketing Manager. It was only then I made the move into the construction sector, working for a small local business before leading eCommerce for Wolseley UK, and then taking the role of Multichannel & Marketing Manager for Travis Perkins PLC. In all I spent 20 years in the materials distribution side of the industry, before joining Finning as general manager to drive their multi-channel sales and service offering.
Marsha: Not at all. I have over 30 years’ experience of working in HR and learning & development roles. While completing a short-term contract in a construction company I came across an advert for an apprenticeship manager at Finning and just went for it – that was just over three years ago now. I’ve since progressed into the role of learning and organisational development manager and am responsible for all early careers, inclusion and diversity and career development pathways.
Hayleigh: When I left school I trained as a beautician and worked in salons for a couple of years. I live close to the Finning HQ in Staffordshire and so knew a few people who worked there, and I’d heard lots of positive things. When a job came up for an internal sales rep I applied, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been here for eight years already and can see myself here for the next ten at least – who knows what role I’ll have then!
What is Finning doing to support and empower women in the company?
Marsha: One of the initiatives which has just launched is an employee resource group for women. It’s about offering support and a voice for an under-represented group in our workforce with a safe place to discuss any issues women may face and a senior level sponsor to take forward action. We also support mentoring to help women develop. The scheme is designed to give guidance, support, training, and skills to help women achieve their goals.
I was Hayleigh’s mentor for example. Over a four-month period we had regular catch ups where she could talk about her career goals, the parts of her job she enjoys and which areas she wants to develop or those she felt she needed support with. She has fully embraced the opportunities here at Finning. Through the mentoring programme we were able to give Hayleigh support, guidance, and skills to help her take the next step in her career. She starts her new role as manager in a couple of weeks.
Hayleigh: The mentoring programme has been incredible. I’ve had two mentors – their input and support has been invaluable. What I found most useful was to hear about their own experiences in how they’d developed their careers and used the opportunity to get their input and advice on what I need to do to take the next steps in my own career.
Rachel: Somebody once said to me: “If you can see it, you can be it”. I take my role in the company seriously and being a mentor to other women is a big part of that. I want to be a positive role model for those coming into the organisation and help people to connect with the next step of their journey. I’m proud to be a working mum, for example. I’ve worked part-time and been on maternity leave so my experience is relatable to a lot of women coming through. It also shows, as the first woman to sit on the exec board, what is possible.
How does working for Finning compare with other companies?
Rachel: I’ve been in the industry for 20 years now, and working at Finning is by far the most psychologically safe environment I’ve ever been in. That’s down to the supportive and inclusive culture that exists, which starts from the top with our managing director, Tim Ferwerda, and the members of the executive team. Finning encourages everyone to embrace all types of diversity, encourages employees to bring their own strengths and skills to work, and learn from other people’s. The company culture here genuinely breeds curiosity & innovation. I for one feel very well supported, and on a daily basis I get the chance to learn from someone within the company who has the knowledge and experience to help me to grow. It’s refreshing to work in this type of environment.
Hayleigh: There’s a saying here that once you join the Finning family your blood runs yellow, and it’s so true. There are generations of families who all still work here.
How is Finning tackling the issue of attracting more women into the industry?
Marsha: Just last month we appointed an inclusion and diversity advisor whose role is to drive equality, diversity, and inclusion across the organisation. For the first time this year, we’ve introduced an inclusion and diversity goal for every leader across Finning. We don’t just want to pay lip service to this, we want to fully embrace this as a way of working and embed the approach throughout the entire company. We’re also setting ourselves some ambitious targets. For example, by 2023 we’re aiming for half of our new early careers recruits to come from diverse backgrounds, not just focusing on gender, but on disability, ethnic origin, and those from socially deprived backgrounds as well. Through our STEM ambassador programme, we hope to spread the word that our doors are open.
Rachel: As well as our apprenticeship scheme we also run a STEM ambassador programme which any employee can sign up to. This involves giving time to visit schools and sixth form colleges around the country to encourage and inspire youngsters as to the varied and exciting opportunities that there are in the company and in the wider industry. I love working in an industry that’s given me a great career, working with some fantastic people. It’s full of opportunity and I would encourage anyone considering career options to give the construction industry a go! You never know where it’ll take you.